Swimming clubs are celebrating a partial victory in their battle to continue helping hundreds of children to access lessons in the New Forest.

Freedom Leisure has done a u-turn on plans to cancel long-standing bookings for community groups using its pools at Totton, Applemore and Lymington. 

Clubs, which had operated at the centres for decades, were told they would no longer be welcome because their lessons were in competition with Freedom Leisure's own programme. 

But, after petitions were launched and the Daily Echo revealed the club's plight, the leisure operator has announced a change of heart.

A Freedom Leisure spokesman said: "We have taken the time to reflect on our initial decision and as such we would like to further engage with the clubs and develop the opportunities for their participants and members, and ask that they work with us to resolve this situation.

"We will be reaching out directly again to the clubs and inviting them to meet with us at a time to suit them. The original implementation date of 1st January 2024 will no longer be in place while those discussions take place.

"We have heard the swimming clubs’ concerns, and those of the wider public, and we feel that there is now a requirement for further discussions and to move this forward in a collaborative manner."

Bournemouth Echo: Children enjoying their swimming lesson

Representatives of the three clubs affected will now enter discussions.

Romsey and Totton Swimming Club, which operates two hours of lessons a week alongside its extensive competitive training programme, had believed the move would pose a threat to the club, which has produced several national medallists over the years.

Applemore and Waterside Swimming Club (AWSC), a volunteer-led teaching group for 130 youngsters, had said it would be forced to close if the move went ahead.

Volunteer-led Lymington Swimming Club described the move as a 'death blow' to the club.

Bournemouth Echo: A child enjoying a swim

Reacting to the u-turn, AWSC chairman Graham Clements said: "We welcome this, but with reservations.

"We look forward to sitting down with Freedom Leisure but I note they still are looking at ways to move our swimmers to the academy.

"I would like to thank all of our supporters and parents. Our campaign will continue until we can secure a permanent fixture in our respective homes."